Pandemic protocols helping organized crime get bogus loans for high-end cars

COVID aiding criminals

COVID-19 protocols are helping organized crime target lenders who finance auto loans in B.C. and car dealerships, says Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers.

Lenders have been increasingly targeted by criminals seeking – and obtaining – fraudulent car loans in 2020.

“Often, it’s due to an inability to deal face-to-face with customers due to no-contact COVID-19 protocols,” says a news release. “Combine that with identity theft, and the result has been a wave of crimes involving mostly high-value vehicles.”

Crime Stoppers is now looking for tips on who’s involved.

“Auto fraud losses drive up consumer loan costs at lending institutions and can impact an identity theft victim’s credit bureau rating,” said the news release, which offered a breakdown of how it happens.

  • Someone contacts a bank branch for a car loan. The vehicle is often worth $80,000 or more. The loan is done online or over the phone because social distancing policies often preclude an in-person appointment.
  • The applicant is a criminal using stolen identification, and the loan can get approved by the lending institution without ever meeting the applicant. 
  • Loan payments soon default, or the identify theft victim starts getting loan demand notices. By the time the bank and dealership involved realize what’s happened, the car’s been sold to another victim who finds out it was fraudulently purchased – or it’s been exported overseas for cash. The car’s gone forever.

These frauds often involve organized criminal groups fabricating drivers licences with victim data, with an image of one of the perpetrators on the driver’s license

Since December 2019, Scotiabank alone reports two dozen such cases in B.C., most of them since the mid-March outbreak of COVID-19. Losses to consumers and this bank alone have reached $1.5 million to date.

Banks in the Lower Mainland, Terrace, Kelowna and elsewhere in B.C. have been hit this year.

The victims, dealerships and banks must then collaborate with police to identify the source of the problem – and determine who will be liable for the loss.

“Maybe you know where the fraudster lives, or you’re connected somehow to the crime but want it all to end,” said Linda Annis, executive director of Metro Vancouver Crime Stoppers, in a statement. “All we want from you is your information. We don’t want to know who you are. You’ll never be called back by police, you’ll never have to go to court and you could be eligible for a cash reward.”

Call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or go online to solvecrime.ca.

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